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Conversational Agents: Theory and Applications

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In this chapter, we provide a review of conversational agents (CAs), discussing chatbots, intended for casual conversation with a user, as well as task-oriented agents that generally engage in discussions intended to reach one or several specific goals, often (but not always) within a specific domain. We also consider the concept of embodied conversational agents, briefly reviewing aspects such as character animation and speech processing. The many different approaches for representing dialogue in CAs are discussed in some detail, along with methods for evaluating such agents, emphasizing the important topics of accountability and interpretability. A brief historical overview is given, followed by an extensive overview of various applications, especially in the fields of health and education. We end the chapter by discussing benefits and potential risks regarding the societal impact of current and future CA technology.


Fenrir: Physics-Enhanced Regression for Initial Value Problems

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We show how probabilistic numerics can be used to convert an initial value problem into a Gauss--Markov process parametrised by the dynamics of the initial value problem. Consequently, the often difficult problem of parameter estimation in ordinary differential equations is reduced to hyperparameter estimation in Gauss--Markov regression, which tends to be considerably easier. The method's relation and benefits in comparison to classical numerical integration and gradient matching approaches is elucidated. In particular, the method can, in contrast to gradient matching, handle partial observations, and has certain routes for escaping local optima not available to classical numerical integration. Experimental results demonstrate that the method is on par or moderately better than competing approaches.


Prospective Learning: Back to the Future

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Research on both natural intelligence (NI) and artificial intelligence (AI) generally assumes that the future resembles the past: intelligent agents or systems (what we call 'intelligence') observe and act on the world, then use this experience to act on future experiences of the same kind. We call this 'retrospective learning'. For example, an intelligence may see a set of pictures of objects, along with their names, and learn to name them. A retrospective learning intelligence would merely be able to name more pictures of the same objects. We argue that this is not what true intelligence is about. In many real world problems, both NIs and AIs will have to learn for an uncertain future. Both must update their internal models to be useful for future tasks, such as naming fundamentally new objects and using these objects effectively in a new context or to achieve previously unencountered goals. This ability to learn for the future we call 'prospective learning'. We articulate four relevant factors that jointly define prospective learning. Continual learning enables intelligences to remember those aspects of the past which it believes will be most useful in the future. Prospective constraints (including biases and priors) facilitate the intelligence finding general solutions that will be applicable to future problems. Curiosity motivates taking actions that inform future decision making, including in previously unmet situations. Causal estimation enables learning the structure of relations that guide choosing actions for specific outcomes, even when the specific action-outcome contingencies have never been observed before. We argue that a paradigm shift from retrospective to prospective learning will enable the communities that study intelligence to unite and overcome existing bottlenecks to more effectively explain, augment, and engineer intelligences.


Planning in Observable POMDPs in Quasipolynomial Time

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs) are a natural and general model in reinforcement learning that take into account the agent's uncertainty about its current state. In the literature on POMDPs, it is customary to assume access to a planning oracle that computes an optimal policy when the parameters are known, even though the problem is known to be computationally hard. Almost all existing planning algorithms either run in exponential time, lack provable performance guarantees, or require placing strong assumptions on the transition dynamics under every possible policy. In this work, we revisit the planning problem and ask: are there natural and well-motivated assumptions that make planning easy? Our main result is a quasipolynomial-time algorithm for planning in (one-step) observable POMDPs. Specifically, we assume that well-separated distributions on states lead to well-separated distributions on observations, and thus the observations are at least somewhat informative in each step. Crucially, this assumption places no restrictions on the transition dynamics of the POMDP; nevertheless, it implies that near-optimal policies admit quasi-succinct descriptions, which is not true in general (under standard hardness assumptions). Our analysis is based on new quantitative bounds for filter stability -- i.e. the rate at which an optimal filter for the latent state forgets its initialization. Furthermore, we prove matching hardness for planning in observable POMDPs under the Exponential Time Hypothesis.


A Survey on Hyperdimensional Computing aka Vector Symbolic Architectures, Part II: Applications, Cognitive Models, and Challenges

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

This is Part II of the two-part comprehensive survey devoted to a computing framework most commonly known under the names Hyperdimensional Computing and Vector Symbolic Architectures (HDC/VSA). Both names refer to a family of computational models that use high-dimensional distributed representations and rely on the algebraic properties of their key operations to incorporate the advantages of structured symbolic representations and vector distributed representations. Holographic Reduced Representations is an influential HDC/VSA model that is well-known in the machine learning domain and often used to refer to the whole family. However, for the sake of consistency, we use HDC/VSA to refer to the area. Part I of this survey covered foundational aspects of the area, such as historical context leading to the development of HDC/VSA, key elements of any HDC/VSA model, known HDC/VSA models, and transforming input data of various types into high-dimensional vectors suitable for HDC/VSA. This second part surveys existing applications, the role of HDC/VSA in cognitive computing and architectures, as well as directions for future work. Most of the applications lie within the machine learning/artificial intelligence domain, however we also cover other applications to provide a thorough picture. The survey is written to be useful for both newcomers and practitioners.


Forecasting: theory and practice

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Forecasting has always been at the forefront of decision making and planning. The uncertainty that surrounds the future is both exciting and challenging, with individuals and organisations seeking to minimise risks and maximise utilities. The large number of forecasting applications calls for a diverse set of forecasting methods to tackle real-life challenges. This article provides a non-systematic review of the theory and the practice of forecasting. We provide an overview of a wide range of theoretical, state-of-the-art models, methods, principles, and approaches to prepare, produce, organise, and evaluate forecasts. We then demonstrate how such theoretical concepts are applied in a variety of real-life contexts. We do not claim that this review is an exhaustive list of methods and applications. However, we wish that our encyclopedic presentation will offer a point of reference for the rich work that has been undertaken over the last decades, with some key insights for the future of forecasting theory and practice. Given its encyclopedic nature, the intended mode of reading is non-linear. We offer cross-references to allow the readers to navigate through the various topics. We complement the theoretical concepts and applications covered by large lists of free or open-source software implementations and publicly-available databases.


Deep Reinforcement Learning

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Deep reinforcement learning has gathered much attention recently. Impressive results were achieved in activities as diverse as autonomous driving, game playing, molecular recombination, and robotics. In all these fields, computer programs have taught themselves to solve difficult problems. They have learned to fly model helicopters and perform aerobatic manoeuvers such as loops and rolls. In some applications they have even become better than the best humans, such as in Atari, Go, poker and StarCraft. The way in which deep reinforcement learning explores complex environments reminds us of how children learn, by playfully trying out things, getting feedback, and trying again. The computer seems to truly possess aspects of human learning; this goes to the heart of the dream of artificial intelligence. The successes in research have not gone unnoticed by educators, and universities have started to offer courses on the subject. The aim of this book is to provide a comprehensive overview of the field of deep reinforcement learning. The book is written for graduate students of artificial intelligence, and for researchers and practitioners who wish to better understand deep reinforcement learning methods and their challenges. We assume an undergraduate-level of understanding of computer science and artificial intelligence; the programming language of this book is Python. We describe the foundations, the algorithms and the applications of deep reinforcement learning. We cover the established model-free and model-based methods that form the basis of the field. Developments go quickly, and we also cover advanced topics: deep multi-agent reinforcement learning, deep hierarchical reinforcement learning, and deep meta learning.


Optimal discharge of patients from intensive care via a data-driven policy learning framework

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Clinical decision support tools rooted in machine learning and optimization can provide significant value to healthcare providers, including through better management of intensive care units. In particular, it is important that the patient discharge task addresses the nuanced trade-off between decreasing a patient's length of stay (and associated hospitalization costs) and the risk of readmission or even death following the discharge decision. This work introduces an end-to-end general framework for capturing this trade-off to recommend optimal discharge timing decisions given a patient's electronic health records. A data-driven approach is used to derive a parsimonious, discrete state space representation that captures a patient's physiological condition. Based on this model and a given cost function, an infinite-horizon discounted Markov decision process is formulated and solved numerically to compute an optimal discharge policy, whose value is assessed using off-policy evaluation strategies. Extensive numerical experiments are performed to validate the proposed framework using real-life intensive care unit patient data.


Artificial Intellgence -- Application in Life Sciences and Beyond. The Upper Rhine Artificial Intelligence Symposium UR-AI 2021

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

The TriRhenaTech alliance presents the accepted papers of the 'Upper-Rhine Artificial Intelligence Symposium' held on October 27th 2021 in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Topics of the conference are applications of Artificial Intellgence in life sciences, intelligent systems, industry 4.0, mobility and others. The TriRhenaTech alliance is a network of universities in the Upper-Rhine Trinational Metropolitan Region comprising of the German universities of applied sciences in Furtwangen, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, Offenburg and Trier, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Loerrach, the French university network Alsace Tech (comprised of 14 'grandes \'ecoles' in the fields of engineering, architecture and management) and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. The alliance's common goal is to reinforce the transfer of knowledge, research, and technology, as well as the cross-border mobility of students.


Branching Time Active Inference: empirical study and complexity class analysis

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Active inference is a state-of-the-art framework for modelling the brain that explains a wide range of mechanisms such as habit formation, dopaminergic discharge and curiosity. However, recent implementations suffer from an exponential (space and time) complexity class when computing the prior over all the possible policies up to the time horizon. Fountas et al. (2020) used Monte Carlo tree search to address this problem, leading to very good results in two different tasks. Additionally, Champion et al. (2021a) proposed a tree search approach based on structure learning. This was enabled by the development of a variational message passing approach to active inference (Champion et al., 2021b), which enables compositional construction of Bayesian networks for active inference. However, this message passing tree search approach, which we call branching-time active inference (BTAI), has never been tested empirically. In this paper, we present an experimental study of the approach (Champion et al., 2021a) in the context of a maze solving agent. In this context, we show that both improved prior preferences and deeper search help mitigate the vulnerability to local minima. Then, we compare BTAI to standard active inference (AI) on a graph navigation task. We show that for small graphs, both BTAI and AI successfully solve the task. For larger graphs, AI exhibits an exponential (space) complexity class, making the approach intractable. However, BTAI explores the space of policies more efficiently, successfully scaling to larger graphs.